Dr. Kilduff or: How The Powerpuff Girls Taught Me to Love a Pun

Dr. K was my high school literature teacher for two years and he always had this thing about not using anything outside of the text in order to analyze it. Thus, a Plath poem entitled “Daddy” could not, ostensibly, have anything to do with her father. Or, rather, if it did, we couldn’t talk about it.

I never liked that and I finally figured out why: upon rewatching the PPGs, I realized that the majority of my sense of humor came from that show.

Puns? Got it.

The novel I’m trying to get published STAR CROSSED OR: THE CONFOUNDING CALAMITIES OF BYRON THE CAD AND MARIETTA THE ZOMBIE is filled to the brim with puns. They say that puns are the highest form of comedy. Even Shakespeare (eyebrow waggle) used them. SHAKESPEARE. And this dude.

One of the chapters has a subtitle about a Flouring Assassin. It’s about a little girl…who’s becoming an assassin…and SHE’S COVERED IN FLOUR. Or another chapter that tells the future with tea leaves. I call it a Pourtent of Tea. Ha! Even gardening puns make it:

“I can’t even tell if that’s a lie or the truth, it’s so disturbing.”

“My honor!” he snapped back.

“Is so neglected that it’s beginning to wilt from a lack of attention. Nothing I say or do is going to make a damn difference. Does it look like I have a watering can?”

“Hidden beneath the folds of your skirt I’ve no doubt you have at least twenty different ways of killing people and I assume that in assassination school they did teach you how to kill someone with a watering can if given the opportunity.”

“Yeah, the class was called Tenderizing the Garden–”

Absurdity? Yep.

There are zombie fleas that eat the insides of your hair follicles until they eventually burrow into your brain. People electrocute zombies back into life a la Victor von Frankenstein (a distant cousin linking the Shelley character and the Marvel villain*) and they go insane remembering the people they ate when they were undead. And even a slang spoken by street-dwelling triplet junior assassins:

“Swiss worm cheese, they told me you was. Dancing with the squirmies and drinking with the lord of the unforgettable yawn. To see you here, though, flesh peddling and boot stomping for wagon bits makes a Spittle use his hard-boiled noggin.”

They’re well educated street urchins.

A slightly unreliable narrator who bursts in inappropriately? Check.

The story is told in two parts. The first from Marietta’s perspective. The second from Byron. TRUST NEITHER. In fact, I don’t even think you can trust me. The narration shifts slightly from a close third on her and a close third on him, but affects the personalities of them while simultaneously telling about their lives.

Even now I have difficulty keeping it straight, and the point of view is something with which I struggle. That just means a little more editing to get it tight.

Catchy theme song? Uh, no. But I’m working on it.

But what this means is that in some parallel universe where my works are analyzed and critiqued, no one may ever dream of relating it to PPGs if they have a teacher like Dr. Kilduff. And that is just a travesty. It is the things that shape and mould us into the writers we are. And while it’s not imperative that one know everything about a particular author’s biography in order to analyze any works by said author, it often sheds light in the most mysterious of ways.

*Victor von Doom and Byron share a thing! They both believe they are horribly disfigured, due to only a small scar on their faces. Source. I mean, c’mon, guy. IT’S NOT THAT BAD.

From the Powerpuff Girls episode “Schoolhouse Rocked.” I’ll just leave this here:

Ms. Keane: Well, girls, I think Mr. Wednesday taught us a valuable lesson here today.

Bubbles: Education is the progressive realization of our ignorance?

Ms. Keane: No. Don’t turn your back in the middle of a dodgeball game!

Narrator: Oh, Ms. Keane! Under your rule, school is cool!

Reading Aloud

After finishing The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman a few weeks ago, I read the acknowledgements wherein he says that Amanda, his wife (AND MY PERSONAL HERO), was really the first reader/critic/editor because he read the chapters out loud to her before they went to bed. This, in turn, helped shape the novel, turning it into the heartbreaking and melancholic work of brilliance that it is.

I talked to my fiance (soon to be husband) Adam and told him that same story and asked if he wanted me to do the same thing for him. Since I’m always in need of people to bounce ideas off of and want to hear feedback, I thought it an exceptional opportunity to get almost immediate criticism which would, hopefully, allow my works to become breath-taking tales of nostalgia and childhood trauma, until I realized that I’m, at my core, a horror writer. I may dress it up in sci-fi, in fantasy, in speculation, but everything is always a little dark, a little horrific and a little disturbing. My dialogue goes on for pages. My descriptions can sometimes — without someone to help me reign them in — get a little Nathaniel Hawthorne-y. I use really big words that I’m not even sure how to pronounce.

I read horror novels — here’s lookin’ at chu, The Terror — IN ORDER TO GO TO SLEEP. Not everyone does, I realize.

Adam, wisely, declined.

Plus, have you heard that guy read? Sugar. No wonder people want to hear his novels before bedtime.

Hella

All the best characters are duos. Think about it. Batman and Robin. Abbot and Costello. Ned Stark and an executioner (spoiler alert!).

So, I’d like for you to meet my other half. (Sorry, Adam, it’s not you.)

She's...seen things. Things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. She watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... Time to die.

My precious

Her name is Hella, after the naked vampire maid lady from The Master and Margarita and she’s a 1962 Smith-Corona Corsair. She’s a bit unbalanced so that every time I type for long periods of time on her, she begins to shimmy backwards and to the left, but I just like the fact that I motivate myself by eating an M&M every time she DINGs.

Shearwater

I got into Shearwater by listening to other folk/indie rock bands like Other Lives, The Boxer Rebellion, and Okkervill River. Incidentally enough, some of Shearwater’s members originally met from Okkervill River, which, incidentally enough, gets its name from the eponymous short story by Tatyana Tolstaya.

(Which means that everything can be related to Russian Literature! Tatyana Tolstaya is the grandaughter of the famous Tolstoi — not the War and Peace one, but rather, the Aelita one — and her novel The Slynx is on my very long and extensive to-read list. She’s considered a great contemporary Russian novelist, alongside Viktor Pelevin (The Sacred Book of the Werewolf), Boris Akunin (the Erast Fandorin series), Sergei Lukanyenko (author of the Night Watch novels that got turned into the rather fantastic movies directed by Timur Bekmambetov and starring the heart-throbby and talented Konstantin Khabensky) and I’ll personally add Svetlana Martynchik, who writes under the pseudonym Max Frei (The Labyrinth of Echo series), to that list as well. Basically this is a long side-note to tell you to read more Russian lit. Not all of it is depressing stuff from the 19th and 20th centuries!)

“Insolence,” is my favorite off of their album Animal Joy released 2012 by Sub Pop.

I like the sweetness of the main singer’s voice and the clarity in his tone. The simplicity of the acoustic guitars and piano often belie the creeping complexity that forceful percussion and quiet strings lend to the latter parts of the songs. Most start out subtle and become progressively more and more layered. It’s a beautiful album, but still a little weak in terms of memorability. I look forward to listening to more from them. Their second should be coming out this fall.

Also, they say the word chrysalis in my favorite song listed above. I have a short story *cough cough* published by Devilfish Review named the same thing. Huh.

Apparatus Publishing

Apparatus Publishing is a little ol’ startup established by my good friend and fellow author, Blue-Haired Stevie. (I worked with another Stevie, the infamous Stevie’s Mom Stevie, and the Blue-Haired epithet is to differentiate the two.)

Their goal is to create an app for e-readers and the like that completely changes the way people read stories. Instead of the boring turn an electronic page because we’re humans and we would feel obsolete and somehow backstabby to our caveman ancestors who turned pages for millions of years, the stories organically scroll upwards continuously, displaying content and pictures — yes, pictures — slowly as one progresses through the story.

Back last year they needed a guinea pig story to work their Apparatus-y magic on, and voila! a little ol’ story of mine called The Retriever was entered and won their competition so as to be the flagshipstory.

What they do is add pictures — drawn by their lovely staff — add sounds and music — composed by their also lovely staff — so that the reading experience engages more than one sense.

They tell me that soon, (SOON), they’ll be up and running and publishing stories and changing the e-reading experience and stuff. I’m so *sniff* proud.